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Pettersen eager to defy the critics after shock wildcard

In spotlight: Europe’s Suzann Pettersen tees off on the 10th during a practice round ahead of the start of the Solheim Cup
In spotlight: Europe’s Suzann Pettersen tees off on the 10th during a practice round ahead of the start of the Solheim Cup

By Phil Casey

Europe's Suzann Pettersen has little choice but to let her clubs do the talking in the Solheim Cup following her controversial wildcard selection.

Pettersen was chosen by captain Catriona Matthew despite having played just twice since November 2017 before the wildcards were named on August 12, since when she has finished 59th in the CP Women's Open and missed the cut in the Cambia Portland Classic.

Such results hardly inspire confidence that Pettersen can play a major role in the home side regaining the trophy at Gleneagles and avoiding a third straight defeat, but the 38-year-old Norwegian insists she does not have to justify her selection.

"Well, I'm not the captain, so I don't have to speak for that. All I have to do is show up with my golf game," said Pettersen, who is struggling with a sore throat.

"My game is in great shape. Being here, it feels like I never left the game. I don't know whether it's the atmosphere or the energy of the Solheim Cup that always brings out the best in all of us.

"This time around the team atmosphere has been the best I've ever been part of. And it's fun to be around all these new youngsters who are so energetic and good golfers. It's fun to see."

Pettersen took all of 2018 off to have a baby and only returned to action in July, partnering Matthew in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Michigan, where the pair missed the cut.

Despite also missing the cut in the final qualifying event, the ASI Ladies Scottish Open, Pettersen emerged that week as a surprise contender to play in the event for the ninth time, rather than act as one of Matthew's vice-captains.

"When this potential pick came up I was very honest with the entire captain's crew," Pettersen added. "And it was a bit hard because I was kind of a part of it as well, but I feel like I've been honest about where I felt my game was at the time and if it was going to be good enough.

"I feel honoured to have been picked and I haven't really thought much more about it."

Pettersen's selection is not the only gamble taken by Matthew, who also handed a wildcard to Jodi Ewart Shadoff, despite the 31-year-old undergoing a back operation just days earlier.

"It's plagued me since April," Ewart Shadoff said. "I tried to work through it but I just got to the point where nothing was working. I managed to see a doctor that was very experienced with athletes and golfers.

"The procedure was very simple, just keyhole. He went in and cleared up that nerve irritation, and now I'm back to 100%."

• Callum Shinkwin carded a superb 66 to earn a one-shot advantage after the first round of KLM Open in Amsterdam.

The Englishman is in danger of losing his playing privileges following a stop-start campaign but belied his 446th place in the world rankings to take advantage of ideal scoring conditions in the morning to finish on six-under par at The International.

Shinkwin reached the turn in 32, courtesy of an eagle, three birdies and one dropped shot, before a blemish-free back nine - which included two more gains - helped him to the top.

"My golf has not been great, as has my health," said Shinkwin. "But the golf is still not there, still very uncomfortable, but I managed to turn it round today and shoot a good round of 66."

English trio Chris Paisley, Matthew Southgate and Sam Horsfield, Scotland's Marc Warren, Malaysian Gavin Green, Swede Per Langfors and 18-year-old Dane Nicolai Hojgaard were in the seven-strong chasing pack following rounds of five-under-par 67.

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